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Frat-Related Violence and Culture – A Snapshot of a Bigger Problem

        Light was scattered and it’s blinded men with power and toxic masculinity.

Many were awakened and aroused, many were tired by the monopoly of few privileged males on light in a university that demands, aspires, and lives for the principles of fairness, equity, and social justice for all.

The recent fiasco that involves Upsilon Sigma Phi is not an isolated case of fraternity misdemeanor but a snapshot of the old boys’ club culture that terrorizes our country and the rest of humanity; and our response must evolve from the short-sighted and band-aid solutions that have been put forward by frightened and immobilized generations that came before us.

An inter-fraternity council and two anti-hazing laws passed are insufficient to correct a culture whose roots are found to have encompassed the rest of society.

You might indict a violator of the anti-hazing law or any discrimination law but that only punishes the person not rehabilitates and changes the culture. The fear of the law is futile because of the claws that fraternities have on our political infrastructures and the handcuffs that macho-patriarchal culture has on our social and moral infrastructures. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of our government, the private sector, and media are polluted with fraternity members and by toxic masculine males. They use universities as incubators to learn how to shape politics, law, business and culture by using ties, tradition, money and aggression.

How does an inter-fraternity council address an ingrain cultural and social mindset? A mindset shaped by religions that explicitly dictate that women are to be subjugated by men; if not neglect the deplorable conditions of women inside the home and the public.

A mindset molded by cultural artifacts such as guns, military toys, and gendered role-playing games that condition males to be dominant, aggressive, and power-hungry. A mindset taught by educational institutions and economic conditions that females are properties and investments available for exploitation by males.

The inter-fraternity council only resolves conflicts and lessens tension among fraternities, but recent events demand it to evolve to become more proactive and progressive in targeting cultures and mindsets.

Fraternities are not the only problem, rather they are the symptom of a bigger problem – the toxic masculine culture; a bigger problem that requires a more profound and wider call to dismantle many social and cultural infrastructures that propagate it.

As our political infrastructures are controlled and influenced by groups like fraternities, they too inevitably become perpetrators, enablers, and extensions of toxic masculinity. Political favors, academic admissions, grade requirements, business deals, and job opportunities become materials of exchange among fraternity brothers – out of brotherhood; and between fraternity brothers and individuals – out of personal ties and power asymmetry. This type of culture is an affront to our university’s ideal of meritocracy. Organizations like fraternities propagate the institutions and cultures of toxic masculinity that enlightened and progressive groups demanded to dismantle and disarm the centuries that followed ours.

How can then a victim of violence demand fairness, equity, and justice in a system whose scales of justice tip towards a few privileged men who live by the creed of ‘brotherhood’?

Absence fraternities, the same culture thrives through the kumpadre system where males exchange favors on the premise of being ‘close’. We saw this in Duterte’s appointment of military officials and we saw this in Noynoy Aquino’s appointment of male friends to the cabinet. Male politicians instigate deals and alliances during elections – how then does the lumad, female, LGBTQIA+ fight against an infrastructure directly and indirectly controlled by one gender?

Perhaps, the monopoly of power was most apparent in the inability of student leaders and student councils to act despite the widespread demand for accountability from the students. The primary mandate of student councils is to ensure that the university is a safe and conducive space for learning – a mandated rooted in the basic human rights to quality life, and to free, quality and accessible education. Student leaders who delay action and service also delay justice and safety for students – they are not rightful to be called as student leader nor UP students.

The complacent acceptance to only impose accountability to the guilty and the inability to address a culture that has perpetuated violence miss the salient points that students assert and demand. Students call out the toxic masculine culture that enables entitlement, dominion and pride to perpetuate among members of fraternities.

The call for accountability from fraternities demands only the imprisonment of few but absolves many who do not physically and verbally assault people; the call for abolishment only dissolves private spaces of toxic masculine men but allow them to find new spaces to infect – these are not wrong neither are they void of good intentions, but they should not be the end points of our wider demands for a society that is safe for Lumads, LGBT, government critics, women and ordinary individuals.

Nobody is safe in a university ran by men and for men alone. A society ran by men and for men alone is unjust.

We, the students, are demanding University Student Council Chairperson John Joseph Ilagan to use his power to end impunity and end the culture of toxic masculinity and machismo that plague society through entities like fraternities.

We, the students, are demanding all student leaders and university officials who are associated with fraternities to end fraternity-related violence and commit to building a safe and conducive unviersiity.

Do not delay – the future should be just, humane and progressive, and it will only be if we make it, demand it and own it. [P]

WORDS: John Albert Pagunsan

PHOTOS & GRAPHICS: Paula Bautista, John Albert Pagunsan

UPLB Perspective is the official publication of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, established 1973. It is the first campus publication established during the Martial Law in the Philippines.

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